TUESDAY Super-Shopping in 2006

3:44 PM EST

I visited the home of Baltimore emcee Bow 'N Arrow the other day. He has a beautiful vocal booth that he made out of some doors an old lady gave him. We sat beside the booth and talked for a while about music and he said something that I really agree with-- that everybody still thinks it's the 90s, and that no style of music has really broken away from the trends that defined the mid-to-late 90s. I said that I think it could be this way because there's no common name for this decade. We hear about the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s all the time, but there's no name for now. Maybe, four years from now, we'll never really speak of this time again and a name will not be needed.

One of my favorite quotes from the Koran that Joseph Cambell taught me: "Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden of Bliss without such trials as came to those who passed away before you?" (KORAN 2:214 via THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, p. 105). Today it seems that in the minds of most people there exists a curious inverison of this sentiment--- the common belief that nobody EVER had to deal with trials as taxing as the ones before us now, because there has never before existed an era as complex and unique as the one we are waist-deep in at this time. I feel like even a moment's reflection on this topic would bring a person to the much more likely possibility that The Present has ALWAYS been the most complex and unique era ever experienced, and that it is not any more difficult for a human being to make an important and lasting change in the world today than it was in "simpler" times. To the human being that wishes to act, there is no "simpler." To believe that changing the world is harder than it ever was before is cowardice masquerading as arrogance.

People are so isolated from one another that they believe our varying tastes in clothing, music, movies, and television shows are indicative of important fundamental differences-- not only between modern humans and the preceding generations, but between all the people who live today.

Go to the grocery store. The way that people ignore each other so casually there sickens me. If you try and interact with any other humans at the grocery store, they act like you're crazy. I went to the new Wegman's in Hunt Valley yesterday, part of the new Hunt Valley "Towne Centre." There's a mezzanine with tables for eating at which overlooks the main floor of the store. If you stood on that mezzanine at the right time, you could address 200 people at once-- maybe more, I'm not that good at estimating numbers of people-- they'd all be able to see and hear you very, very clearly. I left without speaking, thinking that I should think of something thought-out and eloquent to say, but the more I think about it the more I feel that going straight off the top is what needs to be done at the grocery store. Volume and frequency are probably much more important elements for any speech that would come off that mezzanine.

When I went to a dance party in 2000 or 2001, I danced in order to show that I was not lifeless-- to show and feel physical proof that the life in me could not be repressed by unspoken social conventions. Social conventions have advanced enough since then to envelop the common dance party and rid it of its visceral, life-affirming properties for me, so one of my main goals this year is to design and test new rituals that we can use to harness the empowering joy of public transgression in the 911 era.

I propose that boring, isolationist grocery shopping should be abolished from the lives of our people this New Year. Gather your friends and neighbors and pick a day and time that's convenient to everyone, and go grocery shopping together every week at that time. And when you shop together, shop ecstatically. Run to the good deals and shout out for all to hear once you have found them. Sing grocery-shopping shanties. It's not crazy to talk to other humans that are all around you-- it's crazy to shuffle around as if they weren't there. Anybody in the Baltimore area who wants to do some super-shopping with Roby & I (in Hamden) this New Year should email RJYAN at RJYAN DOT COM and give an idea of some possible time slots that would be good for you.

And remind me tomorrow to tell you about the news man.

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